Armageddon And the Book of Revelation

 

bowl-of-wrath

The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath

Chapter 16: Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”

…Then I saw three impure spirits…They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

15 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!”

Revelation in Context

The ‘Battle of Armageddon’ is one of the most misrepresented verses in the Bible by memory verse Christians who harden their hearts against reading God’s word in context.

  • Seven is the number of completeness. This completes God’s wrath at the end of time, just as seven days completed God’s creation.

  • It follows Christ’s Return. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war….And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations” Rev. 19
  • It is clearly the eschatological “battle of on the great day of
    God Almighty
    ” (vs. 14). –Geo. Eldon Ladd, Revelation
  • An eschatological battle, not a human battle. The armies are destroyed bythe sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth” 19:21
  • The ultimate reality is the Lord’s return. This is the event which is the focus of the expectation of the saints.” –Ladd

 

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Contrast with Off-The-Wall Interpretation of Ray Comfort

While no respected biblical scholars have named the nations [in Rev. 16:16] they do agree that certain nations will come together against Israel in one climatic end-time battle called Armageddon.”

If any scholar has made such an interpretation, it is not Bible scholarship, but eisegesis—reading his own preconceived notions into the text (think Left Behind).

Shock and Awe in Parables of Jesus

 

What We Don’t Know of Jesus’ Times Deflates the Impact

 

pharisee_and_publican1

The Pharisee and Publican Praying in the Temple

https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/the-publican-only-half-a-surprise/

The Publican, a Jewish tax collector, was a traitor, being hated as one who worked for the occupation force of a pagan power, Rome. In rabbinic literature “hatred was to be extended even to the family of the tax collector” (ISBE).

Just pointing to a tax collector praying in the Temple would have been a shock!

 

Samaritan

The Scandal of the Samaritan

https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/the-scandal-of-the-samaritan-2/

Jews despised Samaritans and viewed them as unclean foreigners. This went back in history to Assyria’s conquest of the Northern Kingdom….

 

parable-unjust-steward-luke16-1-9The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/parables-surprise-and-the-american-mind/

What?! The master praised this servant???”

 

A Mustard Seed

https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/a-mustard-seed/

“…smaller than all seeds…”

For the technical mind, “all” must mean “all.” But for a parable, it is a literary device to convey the point

unmerciful-servant1The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/jesus-parable-unforgiving-sin-forgive/

Ten Thousand Talents–Have you ever heard a tall tale, or an outlandish story to which you exclaimed, “WHAT???”

 

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Part Two

https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/its-a-parable-part-two/

 

 

 

‘Follow Your Heart’-NOT

heart

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?–1 John 3:17 (ESV)

The Christian life is Christ-centered, NOT self-centered.

Here is an enlightening illustration which displays our modern feelings about “heart.”

The Greek text behind this verse (above) uses the word for “bowels” σπλάγχνα NOT “heart” καρδία The KJV renders this as “bowels of compassion” which represents the feelings to the Hebrew mind. (ISV: Whoever has earthly possessions and notices a brother in need and yet withholds his compassion from him, how can the love of God be present in him?)

In Jeremiah 31:20, “bowels” are used in “a metaphorical sense to denote the seat of emotions” (TWOT*). We use bowel metaphors like “a gut feeling” and “butterflies in my stomach.”

Again in the KJV, Colossians 3:12 is translated literally, “bowels of mercy” (where others use heart:”Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts…”)  The New International Bible Encyclopedia relates bowels, here,  to “powerful emotional forces.”

This is how we moderns understand “heart” today.  “Follow your heart” epitomizes the Zeitgeist. Do you desire to divorce your spouse? Have an affair? Abandon your children? Change your gender?

Follow your heart.”

When it comes to modern translations of “bowels,” many use the paraphrase “heart.”

Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, the RSV, NASB, Phillips, and the later NKJV rendered “bowels (of mercy/compassion)” as “heart.” And the English Standard Version (ESV) continued that in the twenty-first century. This misleads those with today’s mindset when we come to the actual word “heart” (kardia) in the Bible.

As noted (please be a disciple; read and learn) in the first article on Heart and Mind:

A striking feature of the NT is the essential closeness of kardia (heart) to the concept nous, mind…”–The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, s.v. “heart”

All quotations of the Great Commandment in the Gospels interject the word “mind.”

The person who is awash in his feelings, following his ‘heart’ and not loving God with his whole mind, cannot “understand that the goodness of God is meant to lead [him] to repentance…because of [his] hard and impenitent heart [closed, stubborn mind]”–Romans 2:4,5.

Hebrews repeats this warning three times: “…do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (3:8ff). This is not an exhortation to follow your feelings. The faithful heart is one which listens to God’s voice. The heart that goes astray is the one that “has not learned my ways.” A disciple is a learner, tutored by his Master.

The hard heart is the unteachable, disobedient mind that “refused to listen to God.”

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Be a disciple. Read and Learn More

*Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

It’s a PARABLE ! Part Two

JesusTeachingDisciples

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. . . . –Matthew 18

Part One (link) sought to show how our American minds can be derailed by details: “How do we account for this huge debt?” But the “shock and awe” of 10,000 Talents in Jesus’ day serves to grab the attention of Jesus’ listeners.

If we stay on track with this parable, we come to the clear lesson at the end: “We are in no position to repay our debt to God or to ever be able to work off that debt. We can only beg for mercy. And in the face of our outlandish debt which has been forgiven, it is equally outlandish that we servants should spurn God’s mercy by demanding the full payment of a pittance owed to us by any fellow servants as we close our ears to their pleas for forgiveness.”*

In our day when self-centered therapeutic forgiveness bumps Christ-centered Biblical forgiveness off of the tracks, we need to clearly look at the context.

Leading up to this parable, Jesus teaches about sin and forgiveness. Verse 15, If your brother sins against you,go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother…”

This prompts Peter’s question in verse 21,Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Which leads into this parable of the unforgiving servant.

A parallel teaching in Luke 17 brings clarity to what we, in our day, often miss about Jesus’ instruction:

Verse 3f, So watch what you do!If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he comes to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

It is this plea for mercy, the repentance, that is often left out of this picture by confused Christians in our depraved world. As Jesus clearly teaches, repentance precedes forgiveness, both ours before God, and our brother’s before us.

And whether seven times or seventy times, the forgiveness is unlimited, BUT not unconditional. Jesus: “…if he repents.” (If he does not, we are commanded to take additional steps to regain our brother.)

Also, take note that Jesus is teaching about relationships between ‘brothers,’ between fellow Christians. When it comes to enemies, Jesus never says anything about forgiveness. He says to love them. And that love may lead to their repentance.

This topic of forgiveness has become more confused among many Christians than today’s confusion about love. 

loveFake

We need Christian disciples (i.e. learners) who will go back to the Bible and be taught the basics, and then disciple others. For a fuller discussion of this topic which focuses on the Text and draws on the best of key evangelical resources, see “Forgiveness and Repentance,” Chapter Three of: lovecover

(link to reviews,  details, kindle, nook, etc., ebook $3) “…an excellent piece…one that many Christians need to hear”–R.C. Sproul 

 

Here is a Sermon on the text by R. C. Sproul. He sets the example for preaching in context. (It was a letter from R. C. Sproul that encouraged me to expand on the theme of love becoming heresy which prompted the writing of this book.)

It’s a PARABLE !

paul_bunyun_w640 (1)

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

unmerciful-servant1

28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.–Matthew 18

Have you ever heard a tall tale, or an outlandish story to which you exclaimed, “WHAT???”

That would have been the reaction to the outlandish debt on hearing Jesus’ parable. In our day of trillions of dollars of debt, we are numb to such amounts. But in Jesus’ day, 10,000 Talents would elicit shock and awe! (For perspective, Josephus tells us that Herod Antipas’ take of the taxes for all of Galilee and Perea was 200 Talents.)

This is what a parable does. It grabs the listener’s attention. In a noted commentary on Matthew, my asterisks alongside details which attempt to provide a rational explanation for that debt are keyed to a note I wrote at the bottom: “It’s a PARABLE!”

On the other hand, W. F. Albright gives us only one detail, and that puts it in stark perspective: 1 Talent = 6,000 Denarii. In Jesus’ day, one denarius was the day’s wage for a common laborer—that makes the debt equal to 60 million days worth of wages!

And then Albright simply says, “The lesson of the parable is clear enough…”

We are in no position to repay our debt to God or to ever be able to work off that debt. We can only beg for mercy. And in the face of our outlandish debt which has been forgiven, it is equally outlandish that we servants should spurn God’s mercy by demanding the full payment of a pittance owed to us by any fellow servants as we close our ears to their pleas for forgiveness.

the-parable-of-the-unforgiving-servant

Notes for Further Study

Pay attention to the preceding verses that set the context: Going to a brother who has sinned.

Note the context of Peter’s question: a “brother”–a fellow Christian

Be Aware of the way “forgiveness” has been distorted by our therapeutic culture. Christianity Today, in an editorial of a decade ago, noted that such basics have undergone a metamorphosis which distorts their biblical sense.

Just as “love” is used to excuse any immorality, so, too, “forgiveness.”

We need a Back To Basics move in our churches. Many Christians have accepted the world’s re-definition of basics like love and forgiveness.  And it is a sad state of affairs that there is so little teaching on this in the churches amidst the confusion. [There is no Reformation.]

It’s a Parable. Part II 

 

A Yoke?

Farming-With-Oxen

28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”–Yeshua (Matthew 11)

Firstly, we are long past the day when we can assume that everyone knows what a “yoke” is, especially regarding children.

As pictured, a yoke is a crafted piece of wood, used (as we would a harness for horses) for beasts of burden (oxen, etc.) to pull a cart or plow. (The carpenters Joseph and Jesus may have made such an everyday item in Nazareth.) A young ox would learn to plow by yoking it with an experienced ox.

The second obstruction to learning, in our evangelical memory verse world, is that we keep hearing verse 28, “Come unto me, all you who are weary…I will give you rest,” quoted all by its lonesome.

Jesus gives us three charges: “Come…Take…Learn…”

The Zeitgeist impels us to attempt to grasp the benefit, “rest,” without the process, “take” and “learn.” As is common, we see the chiasmus, put simply, an A-B-B’-A’ structure.*

A–The invitation offers “rest”

B– This has a condition: taking Jesus’ “yoke” involves learning and obedience

B’--”…learn of me”

A’--”…rest”

You do not get the “rest” of A/A’ without B/B’. The key is Jesus, coming to him, taking his yoke of instruction and learning from him, that is, being a true disciple.

“To be a follower of Jesus is to be a disciple and therefore a learner.”–Leon Morris

“Disciple” and “learn” are cognates in Greek.

In the Old Testament background, “Jeremiah describes [apostate (see 5:5f)] Israel’s true relationship with Yahweh as a yoke which the wayward shake off (Jer. 2:20; 5:5).” [DNTT] This yoke which they discarded was the “knowledge of Yahweh and his law” (Torah).

Yoke is a “well-known metaphor for obedience.” Though Israel has thrown off the yoke of Yahweh for the yoke of captivity, Jeremiah ends in a future promise. “Yahweh says, ‘Once again…I will satisfy the weary ones…‘” (ch. 31).

That ultimate satisfaction comes in Christ to those who accept his invitation to come and learn from him.

*cf. Matthew, Gundry for more detailed analysis.

The Holy Conjunction

Broken chain

“And”

…One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –Matthew 22

In my lifetime, I have been blessed to hear or learn under several noted Christian teachers. The one lesson, which has made the most difference, is centered on the word “and.” D. Elton Trueblood called this “the holy conjunction.” He emphasized this in key areas like Christ’s humanity and divinity; roots and fruits; the inner life of devotion and the outer life of service.

From the beginning of the Church, there were always those who failed in the struggle to hold these key essentials together. We see this in John’s first epistle. The church to which he wrote had divided. Under the strong influence of the spirit of the times, some Christians rejected the idea that the Messiah came in flesh and blood. They saw the world through dualistic lenses: In its essence, matter (e.g. flesh; that which is created) was evil; spirit was good.

One such contemporary of John’s was Cerinthus who distinguished between Jesus, the man of flesh and blood, and the Christ, the spiritual being who, he claimed, descended upon Jesus at his baptism and departed before the crucifixion. Cerinthus’ dualistic view did not allow suffering for spiritual beings….

When Jesus was asked which was the foremost commandment, he replied, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

“…And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’”(Matt. 22:37, 39).

Again, we have the holy conjunction–“and.” To claim to love God but to not love our neighbor, or to try to get around Jesus description of a neighbor as illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is to enter into a sort of heresy.

First John states it thus: “He who says, ‘I know him’ and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him…

“He who says he is in the light [divine], and hates his brother [flesh], is in the darkness until now” (2:4, 9). (Keep in mind the dualistic view of those like Cerinthus.)

Love of God and love of neighbor make up the whole counsel of God, so that Jesus said, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40).

We need to keep alert here and heed a warning: while “and” holds together different aspects within Christian teaching, we need to beware that it can become the “unholy conjunction” when we try to combine Christian and non-Christian worldviews. C. S. Lewis illustrated this through the mouth of his diabolical character, Screwtape. In Letter XXV to his underling demon, Screwtape advises Wormwood about his strategy which he has devised against Christians:

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And.” You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must Be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.

The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies.2

From Introduction to Love, Prayer, and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies